Gus's Model Garage

Jul 30, 2007

You asked for it, you got it! A classic Car Talk puzzler to chew on. Ok, so you didn't exactly ask for it but - we promise you'll like it. So while the Puzzler heads to Le Mars, Iowa, in celebration of National Ice Cream Month (we hear they've even got an ice cream museum, who knew?) here's an oldie but goodie. With sprinkles on top.

RAY: This came from a guy named Bob Cofield from cyberspace. He says,

'I am disappointed that you have never paid tribute to the great and venerable patron saint of automotive diagnosticians, Gus Wilson. Gus was the proprietor of Gus's Model Garage, whose stories appeared in Popular Science Monthly several years ago, and this is stolen right from the Gus Wilson archives.

'It seems that there was an intense but friendly rivalry between the volunteer fire departments of two nearby towns, Jeffersonville and East Norriton. Pride was at stake as their rivalry climaxed each year in the Fireman's Competition at the county fair. So closely matched were the two fire brigades in skill and experience that the preliminary hook and ladder events were virtually a tie, leading up to the final showcase event of the race of fire trucks.' There's going to be a race, got it?

TOM: Got it.

RAY: 'Twenty laps were to be raced counterclockwise around the quarter-mile dirt track at the fair grounds. Both brigades drove identical pumpers, scrupulously maintained and adjusted to peak performance. The rules required that they be set to factory configuration, fully loaded and equipped, and the crews identical in total weight to the nearest ounce.'

TOM: Wow!

RAY: 'The Jeffersonville team had come away disappointed for four years in a row, having lost the final event by the closest of margins each time. They appealed to Gus to provide them with some small competitive advantage. Gus took a look at the high-wheeled pumpers and the dirt track and mused while he knocked the ashes from his pipe. He then stepped forward, and without tools, without violating the rules, and without even opening the hood of this fire truck, he makes a quick adjustment that enables Jeffersonville to take home the trophy that year.'

What did he do?

TOM: I know the answer. He bribed the judge.

RAY: You ready for the real answer? Because they're racing counterclockwise around a track he wanted to make sure the Jeffersonville truck would be able to negotiate those constant left-hand turns easier than the East Norriton truck.

TOM: I knew there was something to that counterclockwise thing.

RAY: And without using any tools, he simply let a little air out of the left-hand tires of the Jeffersonville truck. You know, if you have low pressure in one of your tires, your car will tend to pull in that direction.

TOM: I like it!

RAY: Well, I'm sure we'll get some letters about the fact that the rules required that they be set to factory configuration. But I don't think anyone saw Gus do this, so I don't think there are rules violations.

TOM: No, no, I think it's great.

RAY: Yeah, and if you have a problem with this, don't call us. Call Gus Wilson.

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